One win, seven losses: After falling to the St. Louis Blues in three-on-three action Thursday night, that’s the Dallas Stars’ record in overtime this season.
“I don’t want to say it’s just a crapshoot, but obviously our record is hurting us in three-on-three,” said Stars center Jason Spezza. “We will watch it, and we’ve spent a lot of time watching it. We haven’t had one for a little bit, but we definitely need to get better results three-on-three because it’s important points.”
As Spezza said, those points are critical, especially as the Stars approach the midpoint of the season. If Dallas had won just half of their overtime games (going 4-4, instead of 1-7), they would currently occupy the second Wild Card slot in the Western Conference. Instead, they’re two points out of the last Wild Card slot, and the current occupant (Friday’s opponent, the Los Angeles Kings) has two games in hand over the Stars.
Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said of his team’s play in overtime, “…We had possession and didn’t execute good enough and it hurt us.” The same could be said of the game’s first sixty minutes, as the Stars out-shot the Blues, 37-21, but only managed to put two pucks past St. Louis goalie Jake Allen.
The Blues played the second game of a back-to-back Tuesday, following an emotionally-draining overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers in St. Louis yesterday. For them, the win in Dallas was significant.
“This game meant a lot for our team,” said Allen. “I can just tell by the way the guys feel after the game and during the middle of the second period, going into the third. It meant a lot. To be able to come out on top was really big.”
For the Stars, on the other hand, the loss was a bitter pill to swallow. They’re now 1-8-4 after a win this season, meaning they’ve only won two in a row once. They played well for most of Tuesday’s game, but that doesn’t matter. At this point, moral victories are meaningless; the Stars need wins, plain and simple. They’ll try again Friday, against the Kings.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock called the Stars “highly energized” in the first period. The coach’s assessment was backed up by the stats, as Dallas out-shot the visitors, 14-7, through 20 minutes.
Just under five minutes into the game, Vladimir Tarasenko received a double-minor for hi-sticking Stars winger Jiri Hudler. The home team’s power play took just over two minutes to capitalize.
Patrick Eaves’ team-high 12th goal of the season gave Dallas the lead, which they held for about four minutes. In a goal emblematic of the Stars’ season to date, Paul Stastny’s shot was blocked by Johnny Oduya, sending the puck skipping across the slot to Niemi’s right, where Jaden Schwartz poked it into the net.
Dallas continued to control the puck in the middle frame, out-shooting St. Louis, 14-9, this time. The visiting netminder kept his team in the game, making several tough saves. Allen’s save of the night came on a shorthanded chance by Adam Cracknell.
— Jake Allen (@34jallen) December 21, 2016
With 84 seconds remaining in the period, Spezza pounced on the rebound of a Hudler backhand shot to regain the lead for Dallas. The lead would stand for all of 53 seconds, when the Blues’ Patrik Berglund beat Antti Niemi with a backhand of his own.
The Stars challenged the goal, contending David Perron interfered with Niemi, but the officials looked at the replay and pronounced it good. Berglund’s goal gave the Blues a tremendous boost going into the final period.
Curtis McKenzie, perhaps following Spezza’s example from Saturday’s win over the Flyers, dropped the gloves with St. Louis’ Joel Edmundson five minutes into the frame. If the fight motivated the Stars, though, it had the same effect on the Blues.
Hitchcock said afterwards that he thought “both teams were trying not to make a mistake” in the final 20 minutes of regulation, as play became more cautious for both clubs. Shots were 9-5 in Dallas’ favor in the third, though the most dramatic attempt didn’t even count as a shot on goal.
Oduya hits crossbar, and we are still tied 2-2 in Dallas.
Good moment of drama, though.
— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) December 21, 2016
On a concerning note for the Blues, center Paul Stastny left the game with what the team is calling an “upper-body” injury. After coming off the ice 1:56 into the third period, he played just two more shifts on the night. Hitchcock said Stastny will be evaluated to “see where he’s at.”
The Stars had one shot on goal early in overtime, before Esa Lindell turned the puck over, Radek Faksa fell down and Niemi was forced far out of position to make a save, giving David Perron a wide-open net for his wraparound.
The Blues take their two points and jet to Tampa for a Thursday game with the Lightning. The Stars head back to the drawing board.
DAL – Patrick Eaves (12) (PPG) assisted by Jason Spezza (11) and John Klingberg (14)
STL – Jaden Schwartz (12) assisted by Paul Stastny (10) and Dmitrij Jaskin (6)
DAL – Jason Spezza (6) assisted by Jiri Hudler (2) and Esa Lindell (3)
STL – Patrik Berglund (5) assisted by Jay Bouwmeester (6) and Robby Fabbri (12)
STL – David Perron (8) assisted by Jaden Schwartz (9)
THW Three Stars
First: Jake Allen (36 saves)
Second: Jaden Schwartz (1 goal, 1 assist)
Third: Jason Spezza (1 goal, 1 assist)
Los Angeles Kings at Dallas Stars
American Airlines Center – 7:30 p.m. CST on Friday, Dec. 23
Broadcast channels: FS-SW+, FS-W
2016-17 Season Series: October 20 – Kings 4, Stars 3 (OT)
Matt blogged about all things hockey at On Goal Analysis/The OGA Blogs from 2008-2014 and has written several travel articles for The Dallas Morning News. He began covering the Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers for The Hockey Writers in August 2015. Matt is also writing a biography of “Tex” Rickard, the Texas cowboy who founded the New York Rangers and the Madison Square Garden Corporation.